Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History; Chair, History
Phone: (404) 727-6555
Office: Bowden 331

Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor and Chair, Department of History; modern Latin American history, focusing on ethnicity, immigration and race, especially in Brazil. 

My interests surround the construction of national identity.  My past work has focused on how minority groups understand their own and national space. I have studied a range of people and groups including Japanese Brazilians, Arab-Brazilians and Jewish-Brazilians.  My research is important to my teaching, and many of my classes include oral history projects. See, for example,

My newest book, Immigration, Ethnicity and National Identity in Brazil (Cambridge University Press, 2013) examines the immigration to Brazil of millions of Europeans, Asians, and Middle Easterners beginning in the nineteenth century. I am interested in how these newcomers and their descendants adapted to their new country and how national identity changed as they became Brazilians along with their children and grandchildren. I argue that immigration cannot be divorced from broader patterns of Brazilian race relations, as most immigrants settled in the decades surrounding the final abolition of slavery in 1888 and their experiences were deeply conditioned by ideas of race and ethnicity formed long before their arrival.

I am also the author of A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese-Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy (Duke University Press, 2007), awarded the 2010 Roberto Reis Prize (Honorable Mention), Brazilian Studies Association; Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (Duke University Press, 1999), awarded the Best Book Prize, Latin American Studies Association-Brazil in Comparative Perspective Section; and Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question (University of California Press, 1994), awarded the Best Book Prize, New England Council on Latin American Studies. Editor, Searching for Home Abroad: Japanese-Brazilians and Transnationalism (Duke University Press, 2003); Co-editor, Rethinking Jewish-Latin Americans (University of New Mexico Press, 2008) and Arab and Jewish Immigrants in Latin America: Images and Realities (Frank Cass, 1998).

My Curriculum Vitae


  • BA, Brown University, 1982.
  • MA, Brown University, 1984.
  • PhD, New York University, 1989.


  • Latin American history
  • Ethnicity
  • Immigration
  • Race (especially in Brazil)
  • Jewish Studies

Current Graduate Students

Recently-Appointed Doctoral Graduates